My bookstore, my enemy

I have had many years of dealings with college bookstores. I have now gotten used to waiting in long lines and hauling 20 pounds of books home in a sturdy plastic bags full of BMG membership and long-distance offers. The one thing that I should be familiar with, but am not, is that frequently the bookstore does not have what I need.

This year, I actually purchased my books in a more or less timely manner. I didn’t purchase too early, nor did I purchase too late. However, my diligent behavior was rewarded with something like five books out of nine or 10.

For the most part, this is not a big deal. The bulk of my books are for a history seminar, and it is not like we are reading all the books at once. I am just hoping I have all the books I need for now.

However, for first-year Korean, there was one book. I think it is rather unwise to show up to a language class with only half the supplies you need, and it is not that I can fake it in Korean, either.

Why is it so troublesome to have all the books on the shelf by the time school starts?

The other thing that has consistently irritated me about the bookstore is course-packets. They are usually never there on time, or they are incomplete. There is never a reason given, which would be nice once in a while. If they told me they were backed up or equipment was broken, I would calm down. But the insistent hole in the bookshelf where my course packet should be makes me anxious.

Spring term, I took a class that required a course packet. I bought the packet. Then the instructor discovered some of it was missing. After a while, we were informed we could buy the extra reading at the bookstore. I opted out of buying it and borrowed it from a friend. I should not have to spend the extra money on something that should have been included in the first place.

Perhaps the most egregious sin the bookstore committed against me was this summer. I had to buy a book for my Capstone, and it was one of those books you can buy from the Oregon Department of Justice for $20. I went to the bookstore to buy it, as I was pressed for time. They were selling it for $26. Of course, it is a book they will not buy back. At any rate, this $6 increase in price infuriated me. Did they really have to raise the price that much? Couldn’t they have gotten a special bulk purchase price? Did they even try? Where is my extra $6 going?

Of course the eternal kvetch about the bookstore is why they do not give you a fair price on buybacks, or the occasions when they refuse to buy your book back altogether. I have a great collection of extremely expensive biology and chemistry texts, whose pages shall never, ever see the light of day again.

We students, the loyal customers of the bookstore (like we have so many choices), ought to be given answers to that particular question. In this day of higher tuitions and book prices, I think we have a right to know. Are the publishing companies giving perks to professors who upgrade to the “new edition” every year? And just how different from past edition are the “new editions”?

How come the bookstore can buy my book back for $8 and turn around and sell it for $30? Where is the equity in this? Why don’t they give us reasons?

I do not have a gripe with the people who I see working at the bookstore. They are nice, friendly and helpful, even if they don’t know when your book/course packet will be in the store. They must put up with a lot of crap, from people with less enlightenment than me. I’m sure they get screamed at a fair amount for things totally outside of their control, such as book and buyback prices, why their book isn’t there or why there are never any used books left. I just want to know who those nameless, faceless people are so one day, when I’m not catching up on Korean homework or desperately reading a huge court case the Supreme Court heard during Earl Warren’s tenure as Chief Justice, I’d like to ask them a few pointed questions.